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May 18, 2005

Comments

Torrid

I think his heart attack has a lot to do with it, although he has always been a charmer of everyone. But you stop thinking petty when they do emergency surgery on you, I bet.

Clinton speaks entirely clearly in these comments. They are easily said, however, and entirely impractically applied in the current context. I don't think it's at all unfair to call the current portion of the GOP in leadership, drunk with power. I honestly think Reid has run circles around Frist, while offering real compromise that offers something substantial to both sides: the GOP gets almost all their rejected nominees and a predisposed 'pass' on the first Supreme nominee; the minority protects their privilege. It is, after all, the Republican leadership that seeks to change the rules.

Frist's "offers," on the other hand, are tantamount to promises to play nice if the Democrats do whatever the GOP wants. If the latter give up every nominee, that's obviously equivalent to forfeitting the privilege in the first place. Extending debate is a pointless dodge; the argument isn't about the length of debate but the power to choke it.

So Clinton's general words of understanding and new friendship with the Bush family is helpful subtext. But at this particular precipice in US history, accomodation to the demands being made is IMO a forfeiture of the oath they took.

By the way, no progressive worth his salt would ever refer to Clinton's presidency that way. He was brutal on civil liberties in speech impediments, copyright restrictions, search and seizure, gays in the military...he was no populist. Clinton was a DLC Centrist special. The man reformed welfare for heaven's sake! (Not that I think it turned out positively overall, but that it would not have been a major progressive initiative to reform it at the time).

Ronald Rutherford

Torrid:
That was a nice post. Not that I agree with your comments on Frisk and Reid but good comments on Clinton.
The Progressives with enviromentalists have been hugging Clinton like he was the best president ever. As shown when Al Gore said Clinton was the best president ever in the middle of impeachment procedings. But as you pointed out he was not good to the progressive wing. Even on the enviroment he signs the roadless rule on January 5,2001. Thus he suffers no consequence of his actions and lets the next administation carry out the policy.

Tom Carter

I think Bill Clinton is the kind of centrist Democrat the Party needs these days. I admire him in many ways despite hanky-panky in the office and a lack of truthfulness about his sex life (who doesn't lie about sex?). I've said elsewhere and still believe that he would be a good Secretary General of the UN. God knows they could use some adult leadership.

As far as judicial nominees are concerned, I support restricting the threat of filibusters under the narrow circumstances being discussed. Judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote. The people put a Republican in the White House and a Republican majority in the Senate, and the will of that majority shouldn't be completely thwarted by a minority. If Democrats want to dictate who sits on appeals court benches, then they should win more seats in the Senate. That they can't do so says volumes.

Bluebeard

It's entirely possible that if Clinton became a "smooth and charming version of Lieberman," people would still love him.

The point is that he's not. He is a centrist, and that helped him appeal to a broad segment of the country -- enough to be elected and re-elected.

Don't worry about the "positive" statements Clinton makes here and there about Bush. Nobody's listening to those, except us political wonks. All those do is give Clinton the ability and the credibility to say later on, "I'm not a rabid ideologue. I've never said that everything Bush has said or done is evil -- just look back at my statements X, Y, an Z. But what he's doing on A, B, and C are dead wrong, and we should fight him on that to the end of the earth."

Remember the speech he gave at the Democratic convention? It was great -- and it was a powerful support and homage to Kerry. (Among other things, he made Kerry into the public-servant hero in the simple, but honorific refrain, "Send me." I thought it was a stirring tribute to Kerry.) When you think about the relatively low profile that Clinton kept concerning Kerry before the convention (and maybe to some extent after -- though as you note his heart had a lot to do with that), keep in mind that some were concerned about Clinton giving too much out-front support for fear that it would diminish Kerry. He was walking a fine line there, but he did his job and did it well.

Btw, I'm sure you'e joking with comment that "even though he isn't Jewish, [Clinton] does appear to be a closet neocon." But I don't appreciate it. Obviously, the vast majority of Jews in this country are not neocons, and my Jewish (and liberal) friends are appalled at the quasi-anti-Semitic connotations in some attacks on neocons. Let's keep the attacks on neocons where they belong -- an attack on their outrageous policy choices and deceptions -- and leave religion out of it, shall we?

Zap

Bluebeard, thanks for an excellent reply and the rebuke. When I said "even though he isn't Jewish," I was trying and obviously failing, to express, humorously, the same point you make on that issue. I apologize. But yeah, you judged correctly that I was joking-- in fact, I was mocking those who approach neoconservatism in anti-Semitic terms. Guess that backfired.

What you and Tom both allude to in the context of my post is what a terrific job Clinton does playing to the middle. Kevin Drum explains conservatives outnumber liberals 2-1 in this country. Clearly, if the Democratic party is going to unseat the opposition, it will have to play to the middle.

It's quite possible both Gore and Kerry erred in distancing themselves from Clinton. The conservatives in the middle, having power to decide elections, still hold Clinton's personal failures as disgraceful, but understandable and forgiveable. You're right it's a fine line, but more important is the plaintive wail further left that is sees centricism as a terrible compromise, when it may be the only realistic way to undo the neoconservative power structure.

And to my using Leiberman as a Clintonesque example, well, it was him or Zell Miller if the topic is Clinton's closet neoconservatism. That was an easy decision. Leiberman is a centrist and he does support neoconservative foreign policy. While Clinton did a moving job promoting a Kerry presidency, he also, as I explained, clearly felt Bush was a worthy president. I think Leiberman feels the same way. I think the connections between Clinton's VP, and his VP's choice for VP, along with Clinton's and Leiberman's centrism... well, you get the point. Clinton just has a capacity to make every political opinion believe it will have a fair say in matters. Leiberman doesn't.

It seems I've generated comments from three conservatives and Torrid. I'm still curious about how progressives feel about Bill. Anyone?

Torrid

I guess you mean -other- progressives? :(

(Also, I think Tom is pretty right-center, if it's the same Tom C from Preemptive Karma...but that's nitpicking, isn't it?)

Before we get too far about the need for Democratic liberals to embrace the center, let's remember that independent voters went nationally for Kerry, overwhelmingly so in places like Ohio and FL:
http://www.udel.edu/poscir/road/2004/Readings/realignment-tilt.html

And if we're talking about right now, the independents have been running almost as strongly opinion-wise as Democrats, since the GOP putsch began with Bush on SS and DeLay on Schiavo.

There's a difference here between centrism on policy and centrism on delivery. George Galloway is a rabid nutbag MP, but not a word of what he said to Coleman and Levin--especially on Iraq--was untrue. No one on the left side of the aisle in 2003 or especially 2004, with the exception of Howard Dean, came close to what Galloway laid out. It was a pack of lies. Responsible war management is a centrist policy, but it was not the time for simpering accomodationism.

Also, the Democrats' problem is not usually about policy, it's about message and projection. Firm, keyed dissent and pushback is crucial for the political system as a whole to work, and in the popular subconscious, it's more sexy. There is an undeniable "protect us" motive in choosing leadership, and as much as I love the guy and wish things were different, Dennis Kucinich cannot win the presidency. People like Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden and Obama are roughly centrist Senators with either clout or cache, and they have stepped up well in 2005 so far--not necessarily on policy, but on rhetoric and political courage. And I think that is resonating well in the public. Congressional ratings are way down, but the GOP is taking the far worse hit.

Zap

Yeah I meant other progressives, but in both of your responses you cover plenty of ground, but I still don't know how you feel about Neocon Slick Willy. :)

Torrid

yes, I read like a rambling drunk there, don't I?

Clinton was a flawed but highly successful President. I have quibbles with many things he did, and on a personal level I think he was a sex addict--but history will otherwise be quite kind, IMO.

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